August 22, 2013

Soup to Nuts: What's for lunch?

We asked some experts – who also happen to be moms and dads – what their kids would be packing when the school bell rings.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 4)

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Anna Greene, 6, slips a container of fruit into a shopping cart at the Forest Avenue Hannaford in Portland, where she was shopping with her mom, Julie Greene.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Julie Greene, manager for healthy living at Hannaford, shops with her children, Ben, 10, and Anna, 6. “If you involve (your children) in the decisions about what they want to eat,” Greene said, “they’re much more likely to eat it.”

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


J.M. Hirsch, food editor for The Associated Press, is a firm believer that when it comes to making school lunches, recipes are not necessary. But he does believe in using leftovers. So all the recipes in his new book, "Beating the Lunch Box Blues," (Rachael Ray Books, $18), are dinner recipes that make enough for leftovers the next day that can be used for lunches.

This recipe will make one dinner and two different school lunches:

1. Make a barbecue chicken sandwich with the leftover barbecue chicken, thinly sliced red onion and a hefty smear of hummus. Add some veggie chips and a salad made with shredded carrots, raisins and slivered almonds tossed with a vinaigrette or a creamy dressing to turn it into a slaw.

2. Make barbecue chicken and rice using chopped leftover barbecue chicken, heat-and-eat brown rice, canned beans and (if it needs more moisture) some bottled barbecue sauce. Serve with fresh strawberries splashed with balsamic vinegar and garnished with mint. For a snack, add apple slices smeared with any nut butter; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar to make it a dessert.


Start to finish: 20 minutes (plus optional marinating)

Servings: 4, plus leftovers

The simple barbecue sauce used in this recipe blends the flavors of peanut satay and traditional barbecue. Hirsch likes it on chicken thighs, but it's delicious on any cut.

Don't do peanuts? Any nut butter or alternative can be substituted, including soy nut butter or even tahini (made from sesame seeds).

Because the sauce packs tons of flavor and is low-acid, the chicken can be flavored with it immediately before cooking, or can marinate in it all day.

This recipe calls for broiling, but the chicken also can be grilled. Aim for 7 to 8 minutes per side over medium-high heat. And be sure to oil the grill grates especially well.

4-ounce jar (just shy of ½ cup) Thai red curry paste

Juice of 1 lime

¼ cup smooth peanut butter

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

In a large bowl, mix together the curry paste, lime juice, peanut butter, water, salt, and pepper. Mix until a smooth, thick paste forms.

Add the chicken thighs to the bowl, being sure to unfold them. Use your hands to rub the sauce onto the meat, covering it entirely.

The meat can be cooked immediately, or marinated for up to a day.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to broil. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then set a wire rack over it. Coat the rack with cooking spray.

Arrange the chicken on the rack. Broil on the oven's middle rack for 6 minutes, then use tongs to flip the chicken. Broil for another 6 minutes.

FOLLOW J.M. HIRSCH'S school lunch blog, which is a simple record of what he makes for his son's lunch every day, at

• Greene suggests looking for newer products such as sliced apples and single packs of blueberries in the produce section.

It's not just junk food that's being packaged for convenience these days.

• Treats are fine, as long as you stay in charge of what they are.

"We make cookies at home, and sometimes those end up in the lunch box," Greene said. "Or brownies. I've learned how to bake with whole wheat pastry flour."

Once a year, on the last day of school, Hirsch lets Parker fill his lunch box with whatever he wants, except soda. This year, the 8-year-old chose gummy candies, licorice, a cupcake, a cookie and a lemon bar. Hirsch said the boy came home "bubbling," excited that all the older kids wanted his lunch.

The message? "We're not going to have these things every day of your life," Hirsch said. "But one day a year, go crazy."

Interestingly, Parker's end-of-year lunch box isn't always filled with junk. One year, he chose smoked ham and golden raspberries -- perhaps a sign that some of his father's lessons about food are getting through to him.

"Food is important," Hirsch said. "And the quality of the food that we feed ourselves and our children matters. Giving our families a diet of super-processed junk just isn't a good choice. We talk to our children about making good choices. This is one of those times when parents have to make a good choice, and a diet of highly processed is just not a good choice."


Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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Additional Photos

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In “Beating the Lunch Box Blues” by J.M. Hirsch, the food editor for The Associated Press offers two ways to use leftover macaroni and cheese in packed lunches – as the “cheese” in a grilled cheese sandwich and as a topping for DIY nachos.

The Associated Press


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